I only like the pretty pipes.

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I'm sure there are many people here like me who appreciate fine workmanship and appealing lines. Not just in pipes but in other things. You know, it's nice to hold and play with well made knives, or leathergoods, guns, cars, or whatever. Pipes, by their very nature are one of those things that inspire craftsmen and artists to make things of style and beauty. Look at the fantastic Danish freehands as just one example. I'll get one of them eventually.
There are so many different pipe styles and shapes it's incredible. And if you're like me, you have bought a pipe simply on how it looks and couldn't care less if it turns out to be an ordinary smoker.

There really is no choice but to own many pipes, as many as it takes to cover all the bases.
I know lots of folks love cobs and gain much pleasure from smoking them, but they do look a bit, um plain. Cobs are the F150's of the pipe world. Long may they live.
Pipes to me are more than just a smoking utensil, as I get untold pleasure just looking at them while I smoke. They need to have the right shape and be easy on the eye.

I don't understand all the science behind grain patterns on briar, but I know what looks nice. Bright polish and varnish on a pipe gets me every time as well! I saw that Peterson while I was in Shermans in NYC and had to have it. They had lots of pipes there that I could have taken but I took the shiniest one and I love it heaps. I'll probably buy another Peterson soon if they all smoke like that.
Then I walked five minutes down the road and fell in lust with a stack of pipes in Barclay Rex! Once again I had no idea how any of them would smoke, but could easily have spent thousands that day if I had the money.

Now if you think that all sounds shallow, it gets worse. While I was picking out that Pete, another customer came in to check out pipes and grabbed one down from the rack. He had a quick look at it, held it up to his face and asked his companion how it looked. I mean, he was only buying it as a fashion accessory, I bet he only grabbed one type of tobacco as well. ( I went home with about 6 plus the pipe). What was that all about? Buys a pipe as some sort of prop to increase his street cred. Very strange. I guess it's cheaper than a Harley.

So anyway, I've ranted enough, just wondered how important is the look of a pipe to you ?


I can admire the appearance and craftsmanship of various pipes, and still not consider owning them. To me, ease of maintenance and storage, and comfort while holding or clenching will trump extraordinary looks. I've resisted pipes I know will require dedicated pipe rests, extra-long pipe cleaners I can only find by mail order, frequent buffing and polishing, anything heavy or awkward in my hand, and so on.


Active Member
I like a pipe that appeals to me visually, but If it is a lousy smoker it is just a useless hunk of wood.

I would rather have function over form in the end but really enjoy a nice balance of the two. My favorite pipe I own isnt the prettiest, it is the best smoker I have and it is super comfortable in the hand...its lines appeal to me as well because it is aesthetically a shape I prefer in a pipe (straight Apple) but I have other pipes with nicer grain. I also dig other shapes (Bulldogs, Pokers and Straight Dublins). But my favorite is definitely not my prettiest.


PG- free since '83!
Staff member
I'm with OldSchool and Monkey. I guess I've owned a few too many pretty pipes that smoked lousy. Then again, I have yet to smoke any new pipe I buy so I really don't know for sure if it's going to smoke well. I'm going on faith... and looks... with that new purchase.


I agree that looks and feel in hand make a big difference in my decision to buy. I have bought a few vintage pipes off the web that though I can see them, I can't check out that feel in hand. But I don't depend on aesthetics alone, I buy brands that I know or that I see recommend a lot here on PSF. I generally prefer a bent pipe but, that said, my favorite pipe I bought in and antique store and it is a stright. It was a brand, Arlington, that I did not know, but it is my best smoker and my favorite.


I think it is two sides of a coin. Do you buy a pipe just to observe and admire? Or is it just a utensil for smoking? With most things, I think it is both. We often select a product based on usefulness and its beauty. Often you do take a risk in walking into a B&M and picking a pipe off the rack. Even with some of the well known brands. I think people too frequently don't give pipes enough time if they aren't great smokers from the start. A little patience goes a long way. A small plug for artisan makers (and sorry, I know I'm one :)), you will get beauty and a superb smoke from one of their pipes. We take so much care in getting everything right, in both areas of beauty and functionality. But as OldSchool and Monkey said, it requires both facets. IMO anyway :)
I like to think the world of pipes is a lot like the world of women. Sure you can date the really hot, trophy, girl; but then you realize she has no soul. Then you stumble (probably half on accident) onto a woman who satisfies all needs.
Sure, she may not be the prettiest; and she'll have her flaws, but she's exactly what you need.

I guess most everyone buys a pipe based off of first sight; but true favorites are relationships sometimes built over years. I think we all have that pipe that you use maybe more than you should, or maintain a bit better than the rest. Just like musicians
with their instruments, we have romances with our tools. Some will be frivolous endeavors that we wind up regretting, others will be life long things we treasure.


Well-Known Member
I think that the look of a pipe is one of the biggest sellers. If I went to a pipe shop to buy a Peterson pipe, say an Xl02 (my favorite Peterson shape) and they had 10 XL02's, then I'd buy the one that I think looks the nicest. However, what "looks the nicest" is also a subjective call - even if the only opinion being considered is my own. Let's say they only have six XL02's: A Dalkey, a St. Paddy, a Molly Malone, an Irish Harp, an Aran, and a Dracula. This then becomes a tough call, because I like all of those finishes - but the price range is pretty diversified. Which one? I'd kick out the Aran, because I alread have an Aran XL02, but that leaves five more... I'd probably pick the Dracula, because here is something about that flat black stain and blood red stem that I really like. However, when the Dracula series was first discussed here at PSF, there were more than a few less than enthusiastic opinions of it. I liked it, but that's just me - and it's my opinion that counts. Still, a sandblasted Molly Malone is also a beautiful pipe...

If it was 2013, then I'd really have to lean toward the St. Paddy because I collect those and I don't yet have a St. Paddy XL02. This, I guess calls that look issue into question because I think all the other Pete's I just mentioned have nicer finishes, with the exception of the Aran, but I don't specifically collect those. In the case of the XL02, I just love the feel of that pipe in my hand and how it balances in my mouth. I'd have to take the St Paddy XL02 specifically because it is an XL02 - but I'd only have this problem for one particular year.

Of course, if that PAD monkey really starts screaming and I just have to have a pipe, then price is gonna trump all else. I'm gonna save and save until the monkey can no longer be put off, then I'll buy the XL02 that I think looks best and that I can afford.

Old Codger

Active Member
It's a balance between how a pipe feels in my left hand and how it smokes. For the most part the Peterson 80s, or some other pipes with a diamond shank just fit my hand and feel right. Perhaps because I've been smoking the Peterson bent bulldog shape for most of my life it's an automatic first choice when looking for another pipe. It may have it's quirks, but if so then I've adjusted to them long ago. The Peterson 80s is my own personal reference point and everything else is compared to that. I could be drunk, dead tired and upside down in the pitch dark and still pick up an 80S, pack it, light it and enjoy smoking it without giving the process a nanosecond's thought.

Due to the influences present at PSF, and being introduced to online pipe shops, I've succumbed to the attractions of some other pipes including some radically asymmetric meerschaums. Fortunately these aberrations have been good smokers. I've even ordered a corncob pipe to find out for myself if the smokers of those are truly just bent personalities or if there's something going on there that I want a piece of. I don't really know why the Uwe Jopp Nautilus appeals to me but I want one.

I have a face that makes women swoon, babies cry and dogs howl, so how a pipe looks when it's hanging out of my mouth matters not.
I'll readily admit that looks heavily influence my pipe purchases. As I've gained more experience, the weight I assign to how a pipe looks has diminished only slightly, and it's still one of the major factors in my pipe selection process--how could it not be? Don't be too quick to judge the lad that wanted to know how he looked with the pipe next to his mug--he's taken your argument to the next logical level. Ever like a suit or a hat on the rack, only to try it on and have a totally different opinion of it?

and yeah, RTO, I'd pick the Dracula, too. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Tony Malerich

Active Member
I was absolutely floored to see the guidance in SP.com's "choosing your pipe" that "pipes are not fashion accessories." Well I do find the aesthetics of a pipe important, I never thought to bother matching them to my jacket... or complexion as your experience suggested. It never would have crossed my mind. That said, I do find the look of a pipe to be quite important. There's still a spectrum of what I like on which a vacillate -- I've been less interested in straight grain of late (but love some I have) and have been leaning toward either cross grains with nice birdseye or beautiful blasts. Drilling and quality of smoke are obviously quite important, but so long as I have that I'll choose one of my good smoking "pretties" over a good smoking... not pretty.
I love DeusExMachina's portrayal of pipes as being like women. Some men like a wide bowl. Some prefer a curved stem. To each their own. At the same time, if it's gurgling at me even when I'm trying my best, I probably am better off with another one.

I often get interested in pipes because of their looks, but I don't often buy them. I've also never let looks stop me from picking up or smoking something I didn't like. I have two sandblasted pipes, and they're my favorites. I love the way they smoke, and I love the complexity of how they feel in my hand. Makes for an enjoyable time.

Unlike women, I find that pipes are much easier to juggle and maintain, at least for me. I'm a one-woman man, but I haven't found that one pipe, and until then, I'm glad to juggle as many as I can afford.


Well-Known Member
I think people too frequently don't give pipes enough time if they aren't great smokers from the start
I agree. My first Peterson was a Kapet 68. Less than 60 bucks and I found one with a decent finish. It smoked swampier than the Everglades for a long time. No matter what, I would end up with mouthfuls of foul liquid, and there was always soggy dottle in the bottom of the bowl. For a few months I was ready to give up on it, but would smoke it every so often hoping it would have magically transformed into a great pipe since the last time I smoked it.

It didn't. But I kept on trying, and eventually it DID start smoking better. Now it smokes pretty darn well, and I reach for it often.

Is it my best smoker? No. But it's one of my most serviceable pipes. It's made with really dense briar so it's durable. It's cheap, so if I damage it or, god forbid lose it, I would be upset but not devastated. And it smokes pretty well! Now the stem is a piece of work - way too thick and clunky. And it's not perfectly balanced and it's on the heavier side, so it's not the best clencher. But over the months of smoking it occasionally it started breaking in and eventually smoking fairly well, and so for a variety of reasons it's one of my preferred pipes when I'm out and about.

So there's a cheap pipe that looks nice but smoked poorly from the outset, and persisted in doing so for a long time, but eventually became a favored pipe. I recently bought another Kapet, an 03 I selected because I liked the looks and the smaller bowl size. I knew from the beginning that it probably would begin it's life as a lousy smoker, but had faith that it would improve. It's stem is thinner and much more comfortable, and just as I expected it's taking a while to break in, but I'm keeping with it because in time I still believe it will likely become another very good pipe - and if it does, it will be a great bargain. If it doesn't, I've paid more money for pipes that still don't smoke as well as it does now. Sometimes there's a gamble.

Now at the other end, I bought a 200 dollar BST which smoked beautifully from the get go and looks great as well. However, I recently got a L'Anatra billiard for just under 150 that I expected would smoke very well from the beginning. While not as bad as the Kapets, it did smoke wet and gurgly at first. But it was only a matter of four or five smokes before it warmed up to me, and now it almost never has a problem - and the walls aren't even black at the top yet (and I haven't been smoking partial bowls). It's a keeper, and if I had discounted it as a poor pipe because it wasn't perfect right at the beginning I'd have done both myself and the carver as disservice. It's a great pipe, it just needed to get used to being a pipe rather than a hunk of wood!


Well-Known Member
I admit looks factor heavily in my choices of pipes, knives, guns and nearly everything else that I expect to become a family heirloom. I don't discard my 2 or 3 ugly pipes but I do use them when there is a chance of losing them or getting them ruined.


Active Member
I'm guilty of this practice as well; at least to some degree. I know what styles, finishes, or shapes I prefer. I've had enough trial & error estate buys to develope an eye for quality.

However, eye-appeal doesn't always guarantee a good smoker, so many times, my pipe purchases are pending; whats kept, and what makes its way to resale or trade always depends on the smoking phase.

Honestly I have $15 basket pipes that smoke as well as any pipe in my collection. I can't ask for anything more than that, really.
All of my pipes look like they get smoked a lot, and never cleaned. The aesthetics of a pipe matter very little to me, when I'm actually reaching for one. I have yet to find a pipe that "fits" me aesthetically, so I gave up viewing the pipe as something that has to fit in with my sense of style altogether. It's a lot more important to me that a pipe fit in with my smoking habits. I'm not going to grab a gourd calabash, throw it n my pocket, and be able to go about my day without feeling like a moron. Instead, I grab a medium sized briar or cob, and I go about my business with the tools that suit my purpose.

Basil Meadows

Active Member
When I first started seriously smoking a pipe, all of my pipes.. all 3 of them were Dr Grabows... at less than $30 a piece. Decided one day to get a pipe I could pack with my index finger instead of my pinky. Went into a B&M and they had a collection of about 20 pipes in my price range..nothing over $100. New NOTHING about pipe brands! After spending quite some time holding each pipe, seeing how it felt in my hand, balance, comfort...I was sold on a Peterson 80s bent bulldog. Luckest unintelligent choice I ever made! I still like looking at pipes for the artistry that goes into it. But now the engineering takes first place, then comfort.
Don't think I've ever asked my wife if this pipe makes my butt look big! She may give me an honest answer. So a pipe as a fashion statement?!? LoL, that's just funny, I don't care who you are! But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some times I'll beholding a nice briar and other times I'll beholding a good smoking cob, and if they're giving me a pleasing smoke, then it's beautiful.

Old Codger

Active Member
After spending quite some time holding each pipe, seeing how it felt in my hand, balance, comfort...I was sold on a Peterson 80s bent bulldog.UN- Luckiest intelligent choice I ever made! I still like looking at pipes for the artistry that goes into it. But now the engineering takes first place, then comfort.
Don't think I've ever asked my wife if this pipe makes my butt look big! She may give me an honest answer. So a pipe as a fashion statement?!? LoL, that's just funny, I don't care who you are! But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some times I'll beholding a nice briar and other times I'll beholding a good smoking cob, and if they're giving me a pleasing smoke, then it's beautiful.
Shhh, please! The Peterson 80s is a horrible shape with sharp corners which is why production and availability are low and not worth even looking for.
Thank you for your cooperation. Carry on, carry on, nothing to see here. Too late to edit my own post but I was fibbing.

You all aren't buying this post? Then be warned. One 80s is never enough.


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I think grain is way over rated . The times I'm influenced by grain is if it's a stellar crossgrain ... I cant afford those anyway . I'm a shape guy all the way . I think it's so cool that there is a ton of shapes that would be considered a bulldog , as an example . I love looking at shape charts . I've always felt , after making pipes for a time , that it isnt rocket science or any more costly to make a pipe that has good mechanics . Good briar and good mechanics will make a pipe smoke as fine as any other pipe built the same way . The thing that stands out to me ... is the shape . The Kaywoodie 50b [ bulldog / round shank ] is very cool !
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